5 Ways to Improve as a Female Leader in the Workplace

female leader dress modestly

Despite having a record-high number of female CEOs running Fortune 500 companies, this still only represents 6.6 percent of all the companies on the Fortune list, according to CNN. While there are many factors at play that are out of your control if you want to be a female leader—there is one that is within it: getting better at what you do.

Whether you’re a female entrepreneur, a small business owner, a team lead, or even a self-employed contractor, you still need to push the envelope to better yourself. As gender equality in the workplace moves forward, here are five ways you can become a strong female leader.

 Slow Down to Reconnect

 Bosses are more likely to suffer frequent burnout than individual contributors, according to Gallup. What’s more, a recent study showed that females are more susceptible to burnout than males. Elena Carstoiu, COO of Hubgets explains why this might be the case:

“Women entrepreneurs usually wear many hats beyond their leadership roles. They could also be mothers and spouses, taking care of their family while guarding for the welfare of their business and their team.”

The issue is: when you’re tired and overworked, you’re not connected, creative or excited about your work—this means you’re not being the best leader you can be. That’s why Carstoiu  recommends:

“Disconnect from your work routine, move your attention over to other matters, go exercise or simply meditate. The secret is to free up your mind and solutions will come, even to the toughest issues you deal with at work.” You may find that when you slow down, better ideas come naturally and you work better with your team, which benefits you and everyone around you.

Build Yourself Up

As a woman in the workplace, sometimes you need to be your most vocal advocate. One way to more actively advocate for yourself is to Level up your confidence as a capable leader by believing in yourself. In her book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown says: “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Don’t question your ability to have a seat at the table.

Define Leadership

If you’re struggling to find that confidence, here are a few ways to uncover it within yourself and create more:

  • Use power posing before meetings. Stand with your chest puffed out, arms at your side and head high. Playing the part helps you step into the role.
  • Write a list of accomplishments at the end of each week to remind yourself of all the hard work you do.
  • Give yourself a confidence mantra every morning and repeat it to yourself regularly throughout the day.

Embrace Taking Risks and Forget About Perfection

 Once you level up your confidence, it’s time to get out of your comfort zone. A well-known statistic (from an internal HP study) found that a man will apply for a job when he has 60 percent of the qualifications, while a woman only applies when she has 100 percent of the qualifications.

Reshma Suajani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, addresses this issue in her TEDTalk. She says  most girls are taught to be risk- and failure-averse, while boys were taught to swing for the fences and aim high.

“By the time they’re adults, whether [men are] negotiating a raise or asking someone out on a date, they’re habituated to take risk after risk. They’re rewarded for it. In Silicon Valley, no one even takes you seriously unless you’ve had two failed start-ups. In other words, we’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave,” says Suajani.

Toss the idea of being perfect out the window and take calculated and smart risks in your role as leader. Don’t be afraid of the missteps that will come along the way. Barbara Corcoran, entrepreneur, and host of Shark Tank, has always said: “My best successes came on the heels of failures.” Better yet, take the advice of Leah Bursque, CEO of TaskRabbit: “I wake up every morning and think to myself, ‘How far can I push the company forward in the next 24 hours?’”

Be a Champion of Equality

Leading by example is even more imperative for women forging paths in influential roles. It’s up to you to shape our modern workplace by championing women and minorities, paying employees what they’re worth, and remind everyone that equality is a two-way street.

more women

In your effort to set an example for other females working their way up in the workforce, don’t fall into the trap of sexism towards male counterparts. This is a sentiment that Michelle Obama heralded in a speech on education. “Leadership is about creating new traditions that honor the dignity and humanity of every individual. Leadership is about empowering all of our people—men, women, boys and girls.”

Create a Plan and Commit

Know where you want to go and keep your focus on the end-goal as you grow through various positions and companies. By knowing where you want to go, and committing to it, you give yourself a roadmap for improving.

For example, in some leadership roles, you may be required to take specific training. Knowing that role is on the horizon, you can plan ahead and acquire the certification before any position opens up. When the time comes to apply, you’ll be a step ahead of the other applicants, who still need to take the course.

Grow and Develop Your Skills to be a Strong Female Leader

 A leader’s journey is continually evolving. As billionaire and CEO of Fidelity Investments, Abigail Johnson, told Forbes, “No matter how senior you get in an organization, no matter how well you’re perceived to be doing, your job is never done.” Use these steps and lessons from other successful females to be an authentic female leader who’s always evolving and improving.


Who’s your role model as a great female leader?  Let us know in the comments, and let them know, too!

Jessica Thiefels

Jessica Thiefels is an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications like Forbes. She also writes for Business Insider, Virgin, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.

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